Iceland, the land of fire and ice, lunar landscapes, rich colours and volcanic black deserts. This was the perfect backdrop for our next adventure. In January 2015 we planned to embark on our own Icelandic Saga into the wilds of the interior.
July came, we were standing nervous at Reykjavik airport, in awe of what may lie ahead for us. Holding only onto our essential belongings that would keep us going for next twenty days.
The morning came and we headed off to the local bike shop. We talked through our plans and the guy just smiled at us. ‘That is not possible, we are coming out of the worst winter for over forty years. The roads are closed and the passes are covered in snow, and even if they have cleared, all the rivers will be swollen with snow melt, so you can’t cross them.’ Panic mode set in, but instead of handing in the towel, Ben and I went to the local outdoor shop and started panic-buying extra hats and gloves. We even started to look at crampons.
It was all too much. We sat under the Solfar sculpture in Reykjavik trying to change route but had no idea where to start. The plan we began with was the one we originally mapped out. We just wondered how far we could get. At least we would have had given it a go, what else were we going to do for twenty days?
It was a mentally tough trip, spending hours on end staring at Bens’ feet trudging through snow fields can only make the brain go mad. Positively we both found we’re ‘Landscape junkies.’ New vistas appeared, stopping us in our tracks. Any problems brewing just left, and we bathed in the vast views with a soundtrack of Sigur Ros in our minds.
In Gullfoss it was crunch time for the route. Up until then we had achieved to cross the terrain of our current route, but remarkably slower than predicted. Chatting to a German cycle tourer who had come north down the F35, the route only opening up two days before. He promised it was ridable, and also pointed out some sights worth checking out along the way. So instead of going east, we went north in search of the multi-coloured mountains of Kerlingarfjoll and the hot springs of Hveravellir.
Our big decision was where to go next, how to make a coherent journey of our travels. In our horizon for most of the trip had been Langjokull, Iceland’s second biggest glacier, covering an area of 950 km². Navigating the circumference of this glacier would offer a complete accomplishment. Already at the top east corner we had to find a track crossing west, but nobody could give us any information about it.
In true style we set off towards the desolate landscape of Storisandur. Within 10 meters of turning off the main F35 route we were deep in gloopy mud, we should have taken that as a warning. We pedaled across dried lava fields which spread for miles with uninterrupted horizons. The ground was so freshly out of winter, just the top centimeter was dry. A crust had formed which looked perfect to the eye, but as soon as our feet broke the skin we were knee deep in super soft ground. This was interspersed with vast snow fields, the feeling of insignificance was over whelming. The terrain never seemed to end, stuck in a vast snow melt which we had to get out of. The views just stretched out forever with no sign of it letting up. Coming up to glacial lake, the only way possible was straight though the middle. Setting out blindly, wading in and hoping it was not going to totally submerge us. Ice sheets laying on the top of the lake, with glaciers surrounding us, a memory eternally engraved.
The journey ebbed and flowed, bringing more dramatic scenarios. Back in Pingvellir, my mind shut down. Arriving back somewhere I have been before, brings me closure. To continue the last five days of the trip was tough, and we had to keep motivation high. The Geothermic area of Krysuvik produced just that. The last night we camped out on a black sandy beach, not ready to end, but the journey felt like it was over.
Back in Reykjavik, unsure of what we had experienced, if anything a true adventure. We have unfinished business with Iceland. We’ll defiantly be back for more challenges which this landscape has an abundance of. I recommend it as a destination for everyone, but just be prepared for the unexpected.